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Economic vulnerability to sea-level rise along the northern U.S. Gulf Coast

January 1, 2013

The northern Gulf of Mexico coast of the United States has been identified as highly vulnerable to sea-level rise, based on a combination of physical and societal factors. Vulnerability of human populations and infrastructure to projected increases in sea level is a critical area of uncertainty for communities in the extremely low-lying and flat northern gulf coastal zone. A rapidly growing population along some parts of the northern Gulf of Mexico coastline is further increasing the potential societal and economic impacts of projected sea-level rise in the region, where observed relative rise rates range from 0.75 to 9.95 mm per year on the Gulf coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. A 1-m elevation threshold was chosen as an inclusive designation of the coastal zone vulnerable to relative sea-level rise, because of uncertainty associated with sea-level rise projections. This study applies a Coastal Economic Vulnerability Index (CEVI) to the northern Gulf of Mexico region, which includes both physical and economic factors that contribute to societal risk of impacts from rising sea level. The economic variables incorporated in the CEVI include human population, urban land cover, economic value of key types of infrastructure, and residential and commercial building values. The variables are standardized and combined to produce a quantitative index value for each 1-km coastal segment, highlighting areas where human populations and the built environment are most at risk. This information can be used by coastal managers as they allocate limited resources for ecosystem restoration, beach nourishment, and coastal-protection infrastructure. The study indicates a large amount of variability in index values along the northern Gulf of Mexico coastline, and highlights areas where long-term planning to enhance resiliency is particularly needed.

Publication Year 2013
Title Economic vulnerability to sea-level rise along the northern U.S. Gulf Coast
DOI 10.2112/SI63-017.1
Authors Cindy A. Thatcher, John Brock, Elizabeth A. Pendleton
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Coastal Research
Index ID 70121472
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wetlands Research Center